Trisha Donaldson – Turning her Passion for Fitness into a Life Mission

What does it mean to be truly resilient when you witness post traumatic stress and find strength in the face of adversity? Read the inspiring story of Trisha Donaldson, turning her passion for fitness into a life mission despite facing unimaginable challenges.

Helpless Witness of Post Traumatic Stress 

“This article is a strange departure from the norm as the damage that was incurred originated from my own hands”. – Kevin P. Donaldson

Trauma is often more difficult to bear witness to as a helpless spectator then it is to experience. Held back by the chains of uncertainty being willing, but unable to offer any assistance or relief.  Sympathy can only come from experiencing a similar event, but everyone deep down in their heart has empathy.  Watching another person‘s pain and trauma unfold before your eyes will certainly transfer that pain and trauma into your heart creating a perfect storm.  It’s like watching a movie where you know what the ending is going to be, but you are powerless to change the plot. 

Trisha Donaldson was born in Caldwell New Jersey into an Italian American family. To that culture in northern New Jersey, family is everything. From the large gatherings to the copious amounts of food, their love language can best be described as togetherness.  Being raised in a nuclear family, which on the surface appeared to be something out of a 1950s TV show which was just a glossy veneer over top of a cracked foundation.

Very early on in her life, her parents separated, and eventually divorced leaving that family unit shattered, throwing everything that she ever knew into chaos. The resentment, the tears, and the uncertain outlook of life became the new future focus while entering into her teenage years. Trying to maintain some sort of semblance of normalcy, Trisha became the peacemaker between her parents, always attempting to maintain relationships with both equally.  Feeling the powerless feeling and lack of ability to maintain a cordial relationship.

Being sweet and likable allowed Trisha to slip through the cracks of the educational system. Completing high school, then college, with an undiagnosed learning disability presented unseen challenges. Those with learning disabilities just learn differently, and not at a slower pace as is commonly believed.  It wasn’t until her early 20s when she met her future husband Kevin did he finally seek out this diagnosis in order to better understand her methodology of learning pace and structure.

Because of her fractured home life, Trisha always found comfort in food. Developing eating disorders at an early age, not having the information in order to overcome, causing her overall health to decline.  It took years of relearning and reeducation to change her mindset on how she sought out comfort.

Once getting through her love-hate relationship with food, Trisha became committed to helping others in similar situations. Her commitment led her to a life as a personal trainer with a unique life experience and sympathetic outlook on difficulties and struggle within health and fitness.  

Finally in 2007, marrying her police officer husband, Kevin and starting a new life. Happily bringing two beautiful, healthy, and lovely children into the world, Trisha’s family instincts became reignited, falling back into the same familiar comfort that she had as a child.  Life was going amazing, and the future looked bright.

There was always a fear in the back of her mind for her husband‘s safety due to the nature of his job. This family unit that she had taken so long to regrow and replant the joys she had as a child, Trisha forged forward, knowing that her husband was doing important work, and was more than capable.

Everything changed on July 10, 2013. 

The phone rings over and over. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Trisha rolls over to see the cool glow of her cell phone on the nightstand lighting up like a Christmas tree. It’s about 12:30 in the morning, “who could be calling at this hour”, were the thoughts that ran through her head. On the phone was a number that she did not recognize nor was it saved in her contacts.  That instant ping of fear which starts in your stomach, began to envelope Trisha. Her husband was at work, and now in the middle of the night, the phone rings from an unknown number

“Hello Hon, I just wanted to let you know that I was in a shooting and I have to go to the hospital.  I am not shot, I just have to get glass removed from my arms.  I don’t have my cell phone with me and I will be home as soon as I can.” The call was instantly disconnected and she knew instantly that it was her husband on the other side of the line. His calm voice and lucid demeanor did very little to put Trisha at ease. That call left Trisha with more questions than answers. The little bit of information that she was given was not nearly enough. Now, fearful, alone, Trisha had to sit with her own thoughts, and with no one to reach out to. Her two babies were asleep in the other rooms so she was tethered to the household. With nowhere to go and no one to call Trisha sat in silence waiting for the next piece of information.

At about 5 AM in the morning, the sound of the garage door opener coming up, in walks her husband with both arms bandaged. As much as she wanted to ask what happened, Trisha was smart enough to know that too many questions may not be a good idea. Only a hug was the form of communication and what she needed to feel safe at that moment.  Something bad happened to her husband, but she wasn’t completely sure of the details.

Sitting quietly, and waiting for any information to trickle out of his mouth, Trisha‘s husband stayed silent and it wasn’t until he woke up from his sleep that she found out the complete details. A gunman had volleyed a bullet past her husband‘s ear, missing it by mere centimeters.  Before this incident, death in the line of duty was an abstract dream that never seemed to be a viable reality. Now it is real, now it almost happened.

Trisha‘s husband began to exhibit behavior that was chaotic and erratic. With a hair trigger and a silent stare, she was left helpless to witness in full high definition, the digression that trauma can cause. She didn’t know anything about traumatic incidents, she didn’t know what to do, how could she help?  Trisha had to endure being verbally assaulted on a regular basis, bear witness to the night terrors that her husband would frequently have, be the target of objects being thrown her way, and several times being spit on.  On several occasions, Trisha’s husband attempted to take his life leaving her with a sense of uncertainty of whether she was going to wake up one morning to come downstairs and find her husband no longer alive.  Trisha was standing helpless in the dark, not knowing what to do.

A lesser woman would’ve walked out the door with her two children. But Trisha is so much stronger than that and chose to stick it out and attempt to bring her husband back to health. Trisha reflects on this time in her life saying “I was a single parent, taking care of two small children, and a fully grown child in my husband”. 

That family unit which had been reconstructed was beginning to fall apart. All she could do was sit there and watch as the household burned around her. 

While her husband was involved in therapy, Trisha chose to attend as well. Meeting the wives of other officers who were involved in shootings, Trisha found solace in knowing that she was not alone. Other spouses had endured similar incidents. Trisha began to learn more about post traumatic stress. Post traumatic stress does not only affect those involved in the singular traumatic event, but has a ripple consequence to those in their orbit. Her primary concern was taking care of her children, but she wanted her husband back.

The one thing that she didn’t know was that life was never going to be the same, and that the term normal had to be redefined.  Trisha knew her husband had a path to walk, and all she could do was to stand there behind him offering support when necessary.

With an unsure future, and her husband‘s employment beginning to end due to a forced retirement, Trisha began to reach harder and lean into her personal training. The joy she felt from changing another life while giving them peace, even when her life was in pieces, gave her an odd calm that she didn’t expect .

Through many years of therapy and counseling, Trisha‘s decision to stay with her husband was what she wanted to do in her heart. The roller coaster of their marriage after his event is nothing short of terrifying. But often life is the same way, experiencing ups and downs, twists, and turns, trying to hold on while the ride attempts to buck you off. 

Along the way, she had met many spouses who jumped off the ride, willingly, and chose not to live in the same toxic situation as she encountered.  Trisha has a unique life experience that brings value to her professional life. For the past 20+ years being a personal trainer and now a health coach with Get Fit 21, and an advocate for Unicity health supplements, Trisha knows what pain is, Trisha knows what resilience is, and Trisha knows how to endure.  Trisha Donaldson gives words of encouragement daily, which come from a place of true understanding.

When times are good, it is very easy to be happy and continue moving forward. During difficult times, how you react is the true measure of a woman. To be able to endure and see it through to the other side, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is still an enormous amount of healing that needs to take place, but Trisha feels that the trials she went through had their purpose, and she is better prepared to see them until the end.

Do you want to share your story and inspire our readers ? Know that every story is paving the way for a brighter, happier future.

Kevin P. Donaldson
Kevin P. Donaldson

An accomplished author, seasoned Motivational Speaker and Podcast Host, Kevin P. Donaldson is known for transforming the lives of audiences. His talks are attended by people of all ages and backgrounds. Kevin's approach toward finding success and healing is approached by embracing your pain and running toward it head-on.

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